Is Kingda Ka the Fastest and Tallest Roller Coaster?

Everything You Want to Know About Six Flags Record-Breaking Coaster

Kingda Ka
••• Chun Yip So / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

It's over in the blink of an eye. Well, okay, it is 50.6 seconds to be exact. But what an exhilarating not-quite-a-minute. It's Kingda Ka, the record-shattering rocket coaster that New Jersey's Six Flags Great Adventure unleashed in 2005.

When it debuted, it took top honors as the fastest and tallest coaster on the planet. Since then, it has elicited scads of screams, abundant adrenaline spikes, hordes of horrific gasps, and at least a few wet undergarments.

(It's no wonder it makes the list for the scariest coasters.)

Let's examine this wild coaster and engineering marvel, starting with its wildly impressive stats:

  • Type of coaster: Hydraulic launch rocket coaster
  • Height: 456 feet (world's tallest when it opened)
  • Top speed: 128 mph (world's fastest when it opened)
  • Coaster elements: 456-foot tall top hat tower, with 90-degree ascent and descent
  • 129-foot second hill designed to provide free-floating airtime
  • Minimum height requirement: 54 inches

Is It Still the Fastest and the Tallest?

When it first launched, Kingda Ka took the tallest and fastest coaster trophies from rival Cedar Point and its essentially similar ride, Top Thrill Dragster. It held both records for many years, but another coaster, Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, has since bested Kingda Ka in the speed department. It is still the fastest coaster in the United States and the world's second fastest coaster.

Kingda Ka is still holding on to its height record. But it may not have bragging rights too much longer. A very different coaster, SkyScraper, is supposed to open in Orlando in 2019 and take the mantle as the world's tallest coaster. (Then again, that project has had many delays and may never get built.) See other contenders in TripSavvy’s list of the 10 tallest roller coasters in the world.

Kingda Ka blasts off horizontally and reaches 128 mph—yeah, you read that right, 128 freakin' mph—in 3.5 seconds. How in the world does it accomplish this amazing feat? Instead of a poky chain lift and gravity, which is the way that most roller coasters get up to speed, the Six Flags ride uses a hydraulic launch system.

To meet huge demand, the rocket coaster accommodates four trains and has two loading platforms in its station. Manufactured by Swiss ride manufacturer Intamin, the thrill machine uses an over-the-shoulder safety restraint system.

Like Ohio's Dragster, Kingda Ka climbs a top-hat tower at 90 degrees. In this case, the apex of the tower reaches a staggering 456 feet, or 36 feet taller than Cedar Point's former champ. We're talking about 45 stories in the air. Riders don't have much time to either appreciate the view or get freaked out, however. The trains crest the tower and plummet 418 feet straight down the other side before entering into a 270-degree vertical spiral. (Top Thrill Dragster does not include a spiral on its return drop.)

Depending on the passengers’ weight load, wind conditions, and other variables, Kingda Ka may quickly or slowly navigate the top of the top hat tower.

In some rare cases, the train may peter out before it reaches the top and race backwards down the tower towards the loading station. In those cases, passengers get to experience a second launch.

Kingda Ka's All-Out Assault

If you want more time to take in the commanding view from atop Kingda Ka’s tower, you could ride Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom. The drop tower ride uses the back side of the roller coaster's tower to climb 415 feet. It takes a comparatively long 30 seconds to to get to the top. Once there, Zumanjaro hangs for a few seconds before plummeting down at 90 mph.

Kingda Ka uses some of its incredible height and speed to deliver a hint of airtime. After the top hat element, it climbs a 129-foot tall hill designed to induce weightlessness. Then, after the proverbial blink of an eye, it's back to the station.

(Come to think of it, it's likely that there isn't any eye-blinking going on among passengers while experiencing Kingda Ka's all-out assault.)

So, how is the ride? We are glad you asked. Read TripSavvy’s full review of Kingda Ka to see how we rate the coaster. (Hint: When it comes to coasters, speed, and height, while important, aren't the only factors that determine a great ride.)